Category Archives: staff favorites

Beauty and the Beast and the Books


Beauty and the Beast was a special Disney movie for me.  How could a future librarian not enjoy a story about a book collection bringing two unlikely characters together?

I’ve talked to a number of patrons in the past few days who are very excited about the new live action version of the movie starring Emma Watson.  Hermione is definitely a factor.  For those fans, I would like to bring a little-known DVD to your attention:

b shoes
Ballet Shoes was a BBC TV movie based on a book by the same name by Noel Streatfeild.  Three adopted sisters pursue careers in ballet, acting, and aviation.  The book was originally published in the 1930s, but remains a favorite and is still in print today.


Beauty and the Beast also came out about the time that I discovered Robin McKinley, who writes wonderful fantasy novels with strong female characters.  Her book Beauty is an older title but still a great choice for an older kid or young teen.






















Quick pick: Cobweb Christmas

When I started working for Fountaindale in 1985, the department head had a party at her home. As I admired her tree, I noticed a spider on a web ornament and asked about it. She said it is a German tradition and told me about the book A Cobweb Christmas by Shirley Climo.
The next Christmas, I received a spider on the web ornament as a gift. When my daughter left home, she asked for a spider on the web ornament. I could not find one, but asked the library staff to assist with my search. An elf found one and left it in my mailbox without a note about the cost or who the elf was. When my son left  home, he, too, asked for a spider on a web.
This time, the elves were with me as I found one in a Minocqua, WI Christmas shop. The spider and web now has a place on the side of the tree since my mother-in-law passed away almost 10 years ago. She requested this ornament be put at the back of the tree as she was afraid of spiders and this ornament gave her the creeps when she saw it!

Family outings: The Nutcracker

I never danced in The Nutcracker, but I love the music and I love this ballet.  My first memory if it is watching it on TV.  It was the night that Halley’s Comet passed overhead.  Unfortunately, we had a cloudy night and it was impossible to see the comet.  My parents found a performance of The Nutcracker on PBS and told me that if I was lucky, I might see the comet the next time around (in 2061).  Even without seeing the comet, I’ve had a few opportunities to see The Nutcracker live since then and enjoyed it every time.  Parents often ask us for books to introduce The Nutcracker before they take their children to a performance.  Here are a few suggestions:

Bea in The Nutcracker by Rachel Isadora
Bea and her young classmates dress up in costumes and put on a performance of The Nutcracker.  This is one of Rachel Isadora’s picture books that showcases her background as a professional ballerina!

Becoming a Ballerina: A Nutcracker Story by Lise Friedman; photographs by Mary Dowdle
Traces the daily experiences of a thirteen-year-old ballerina who is preparing to perform the lead role in the Boston Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker.

Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite by Anna Harwell Celenza; illustrated by Don Tate
Tells the story of how jazz composer and musician Duke Ellington, along with Billy Strayhorn, created his jazz composition based on Tchaikovsky’s famous Nutcracker Suite ballet.   This book comes with a recording of the suite on CD.

The Nutcracker performed by the Bolshoi Ballet on DVD
If you want to bring home a recording of the ballet, this is a beautiful version.

The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann; pictures by Maurice Sendak; translated by Ralph Manheim
Maurice Sendak (who wrote and illustrated Where the Wild Things Are and who also designed sets for a performance of The Nutcracker) illustrates the story behind the ballet.

The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers
An abridged version of the story featuring beautiful paintings of ballet dancers.

The Nutcracker retold by Stephanie Spinner; illustrated by Peter Malone
In this retelling of the original 1816 German story, Godfather Drosselmeier gives young Marie a nutcracker for Christmas, and she finds herself in a magical realm where she saves the nutcracker and sees him change into a handsome prince.  This picture book comes with a CD of the music from the ballet.

The Nutcracker, music by Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky
This child-friendly adaptation of the complete ballet score is given a beautiful retelling of the story by Jim Weiss.  You can find many other CDs in our collection that feature music from The Nutcracker and storytelling by Jim Weiss.

The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition by Chris Barton; illustrated by Cathy Gendron
An illustrated account of how “The Nutcracker” ballet became an American tradition traces the efforts of three vaudeville siblings who staged their own production in the early 1900s after being introduced to the ballet by Russian immigrants.

Holiday memories: Chicago outings

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The Holidays are some of my favorite times with my family.  Relocating to the greater Chicagoland area in 1995, we have worked hard to create some very special “Chicago Holiday” activities that will be etched in our memories as my family grows and expands.   The one constant activity is going downtown Chicago on Christmas Eve to look at the Marshall Field’s Windows, Daley Plaza Christkindlmarket, and then we pop over to the John Hancock Building to see the trains set up below street level.  The outing is not complete without the purchase of a box of Frango Mints and stopping to listen to one of the many street musicians.  On the years when the temperatures were extreme, we’d defer to the Field Museum, or Museum of Science and Industry as shelter from the cold.  Over the years we have added the “Welcome Yule,” Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Christmas celebration and the Lincoln Park light display.  In the beginning it was just our small family of five, but over the years we have had a few additions and look forward to many more.

Please drop by the library and share with me one of your special Holiday outings.  From my family to yours, we wish you a very happy, healthy and safe holiday season.

Holiday Memories: Family Outings

Do your children love LEGOS? How about trains? If you answered yes, you won’t want to miss the LEGO Train Show at Cantigny Park in Wheaton.

The Northern Illinois LEGO Train Club sets up their magnificent train layouts annually in the Visitor Center.

My family has attended the show several times. There is so much to see! Lots of stories play out along the tracks. One vignette I remember was a crash between a Dunkin Donuts truck and a Krispy Kreme truck just outside a coffee shop. The street was full of donuts and police officers!

Lego trains on display at Cantigny

Star Wars, Sesame Street, Thomas the Tank Engine, and Harry Potter have all been showcased. Chicago landmark buildings, a concert in a park, gas stations, Ferris wheel, fire trucks and construction cranes may take the stage. Every year is different. Dads with children on their shoulders search out the stories and spy out superheroes in action. And, of course, the trains tie everything together to the enjoyment of all. Unbeknownst to most adults, below the main train layout, there are shadow boxes at a young child’s height – a secret world of delight for them alone!

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the show. It is open to the public on Saturday and Sunday, December 10 and 11, from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. The show itself is free. Entrance to Cantigny is $5 per car for parking.

Cantigny Park participates in the Museum Pass program. Bring your Fountaindale card to the Information Desk in the lobby and ask if there are any passes for Cantigny. A pass is good for a week and saves a family money.

To learn more about the participating museums go to School vacation is a great time to go out and explore.

Celebrating National Parks

100 years ago (August 25, 1916), the National Park Service was established.  We have some stories to share with you to celebrate!

Ms. Kathy:

Grandparents with the kids at Bryce

We got our first National Parks Passport and completed our first Junior Ranger packet in 1998 while visiting Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, when my children were ages three, four and seven.  From that moment on, we were hooked.  Our travels have taken us from Acadia in Maine, to the Everglades in Florida, to Haleakala in Hawaii, to Denali in Alaska, and so many places in between.  We have enjoyed a snowball fight in July at Glacier National Park in Montana and another at Lassen Volcanic National Park, California and later that day hiked on the icy floors of the lava tubes in Lava Beds National Monument.  We learned about Spanish Colonists in the San Antonio Missions National Park and walked the steps of Pocahontas and John Smith in Jamestown Virginia, Colonial Historic Park. We learned new words like Hoodoo which is a rock formation made famous in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, where we also learned that the bark of a ponderosa pine smells a lot like vanilla when you are up close.   My children are grown now so the vacations are a little different but we did chose to celebrate this 100th anniversary of America’s National Parks by visiting several Parks this year alone.  Most recently I visited Everglades National Park with my two daughters and Fort Sumter National Monument with one daughter and two Aunts.  HAPPY CENTENNIAL TO OUR NATIONAL PARKS SERVICES!

My kids and me at Yellowstone NPS

Ms. Sarah:

moon by night

I never visited the U.S. national parks growing up.  When I think of them, I always think of reading The Moon by Night when I was middle school age and trying to get my hands on all the Madeleine L’Engle I could.  (In this book, Vicky meets nihilistic Zachary for the first time as both their families go camping.  He’s a key character in A Ring of Endless Light, one of my all-time favorites, and for thematic reasons I would recommend both books to anyone who loves The Fault in Our Stars.)

Oddly enough, the one national park I did spend a lot of time in was Canadian: Point Pelee.  Living in the Detroit suburbs, it was only a short drive away.  You didn’t need a passport to enter Canada from the U.S. back then, and this was where my family went when we drove to the beach.  Point Pelee is on the monarch butterfly migration route, and the T-shirts and other souvenirs we would buy always had pictures of the black and orange butterflies.  That childhood connection is why efforts to save the monarch butterfly mean a lot to me.

Ms. Nancy:

nancy pic 1nancy pic 2

It was the Spring of 2005 and I wanted to start planning my family’s summer vacation. I had been to the Grand Canyon as a child but had not been back since. I thought my kids should see the Grand Canyon as it truly is an amazing sight and the only one of the Seven Wonders of the World located in North America. We flew to Arizona and then stayed in Williams, Arizona to ride the Grand Railway train in to the Park to see the Grand Canyon. There was music on the train and we were robbed by [pretend] train robbers on the way to the Canyon. Once to the Grand Canyon we stayed in the park at the Maswik Lodge so, we could really enjoy the Canyon during the day and the evening. I believe this was truly one of our best family vacations!


For the refreshment of the spirit


Is there a favorite book that inspires you, one you return to over and over again?  I was thinking of this idea in connection with this bit in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader:

“On the next page she came to a spell ‘for the refreshment of the spirit.’ … And what Lucy found herself reading was more like a story than a spell. …before she had read to the bottom of the page she had forgotten that she was reading at all.  She was living in the story as if it were real…”

She wants to read the story again and finds that it is fading away.

“…and ever since that day what Lucy means by a good story is a story which reminds her of the forgotten story in the Magician’s Book.”

(She later asks Aslan to tell it to her, and he promises that he will.)

Is there a story that always makes you feel good?

I asked other people in the department, and this is what they wrote.



Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner are precious to me because they hold my mother’s voice. A. A. Milne’s books were first published in the 1920s when Mom was a little girl when, so the copies that she read to us had been hers as a child.

When I read these stories today I hear her voice in my head. I am transported to the Hundred Acre Wood and to my own childhood. Gloomy donkey Eeyore was my favorite character. “In Which Eeyore Loses a Tail”, “In Which Eeyore Has a Birthday”, and “In Which Pooh Invents a New Game and Eeyore Joins In” were the stories I wanted to hear again and again. Whenever my family was out hiking and came to a bridge over a stream, we always gathered twigs or pine cones so we could play Poohsticks. We wished one another “HIPY PAPY BTHUTHDTH THUTHDA BTHUTHDY”, and quoted Pooh, “Time for a little something”, when we wanted a snack. Rereading the familiar words, I am caught up again in the adventures of some of my oldest literary friends.

Milne’s imaginative wordplay, his gentle humor and memorable characters continue to draw families to the enchanted place he created. Share the original with your children, so your voice will be captured in the pages of these classics for them.


Reading really is in itself a spell.
There are two books I turn to most when needing a “refreshment of the soul”.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Doesn’t every child and even adults want a forest to grow in their bedroom?
It is the book that reminds me that our imagination can take us anywhere and when we return supper will be waiting….still hot.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
There are few books that I want to read over and over and this is one of them. The wonderful magical world of Harry Potter is of course the main draw for readers.
J.K Rowling’s writing is so fantastic that I can really get lost into the world the second third or fourth time just  as much the first time that I read it.



I could name a lot of stories, but the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane is a favorite of mine.  It starts in the library, when Nita (who has ducked into the children’s department to hide from bullies) is drawn to a book titled So You Want to be a Wizard.  She takes an oath, meets some allies, and is soon deep in the wizardly business of protecting the universe.

There is plenty of science fiction and fantasy that features battles between good and evil, but there are some things that make this series unique.  The settings range from contemporary New York City (and a creepy alternate Manhattan) to alien worlds.  Humor sneaks in between the more serious moments.  Magic is closely aligned to science and largely consists of being able to talk things into helping you.

I don’t think those things fully explain why I feel truly, deeply happy when I read these books.  They include lots of things I love (astronomy, talking trees, allusions to Norse mythology, more astronomy), but it’s more than that.  These are stories that acknowledge that the real world is full of pain and injustice, but they also show people struggling to do good and make it better– on a big scale or a small one, by magic or by ordinary means.

Looking for more refreshing stories?  You might want to check out the website for the Christopher Awards.  “First presented in 1949, the Christopher Awards were established by Christopher founder Father James Keller to salute media that ‘affirm the highest values of the human spirit.'”  They include television, books and movies for children, teens and adults.